If you enjoyed the relatively recent Ocean’s 11 or Ocean’s 13, you should enjoy Ocean’s 8, as director Gary Ross (who co-wrote the script with Olivia Milch) preserves the light, breezy tone of the previous Steven Soderbergh-directed heist films (Soderbergh is on board here as a producer). In this female-driven entry in the Ocean’s endeavors, Sandra Bullock is Danny’s larcenous sister Debbie, just released from prison and with no desire to give up her thieving ways—or ignore a certain gent whose betrayal led to her recent stay behind bars. Ocean’s scheme involves a jewel heist during the yearly ball at the Metropolitan Museum, with the major bauble dangling from the neck of the “Belle of the Ball,” an uptight, needy actress played by a scene-stealing Anne Hathaway.
Of course, acquiring the $150,000,000 diamond necklace in question involves assembling a willing and able team, including Ocean’s former partners (Cate Blanchett—who may have been a partner in more than one way---and Sarah Paulson, now selling questionably obtained goods out of her garage), a talented computer hacker (Rhianna), a very slippery pickpocket (Awkwafina, who also hijacks a scene or two), an eccentric, seemingly past her prime fashion designer (Helena Bonham-Carter), and a jeweler (Mindy Kaling) with an artistry all her own.
This revamp of the Ocean’s series has star power to spare, with engaging performances, not only by the female leads, but also James Corden as an insurance investigator. The prep for the heist is peppered with amusing exchanges and occasional (if slight) character development, but it’s the chemistry among the leads that certainly carries the day. The plotting is a little light in terms of the stakes involved (though ingenious, there is little doubt where the heist is headed,)—and Bullock’s personal nemesis is nowhere near as menacing as Andy Garcia’s deserving hotel owner in the Clooney films. Yet Ocean’s 8 is jaunty, escapist fun, complete with a couple of cameos and a satisfying third-act twist or two.
Hereditary is a creepy affair, especially in the first two-thirds, as it centers on a somewhat isolated family dealing with all kinds of grief—both imaginable and unimaginable. The viewer knows something is amiss from the first image of the family, photographed as if they are inhabitants in a dollhouse. For this family’s existence is anything but idyllic, with this melancholy brood consisting of parents Steve and Annie (Gabriel Byrne and Toni Colette), troubled thirteen-year-old misfit Charlie (Milly Shapiro--quiet, withdrawn, and excellent) and her older, pot-smoking brother Peter (Alex Wolff). In the aftermath of Annie’s mother’s death, the family slowly, inexorably deteriorates. Annie and Charlie initially bear the brunt of it, as Annie seeks counseling and understanding (and perhaps vindication?), while daughter Charlie acts out in other ways (her interaction with a bird and her “cluck” sound rank as some of the more unnerving moments of the year.) Yet this loss pales in terms of what lies ahead…
Though Hereditary has its share of overt shares and shocks, the really unsettling nature of the piece lies within this imploding family dynamic. Toni Colette’s Annie, who has issues too numerous to record here, is given the opportunity for several bravura turns, as well as ample opportunity to express inner anguish and turmoil. Her outburst in a grief-counseling session, as well as her later confession to son Peter, namely that she didn’t want him, contain some of the most effective and disturbing acting on display this year. Gabriel Byrne is also effective as the father who is at a loss with this wife’s inability to cope (and then there’s that dollhouse she’s making), and Alex Wolff is heartbreaking as the grief-stricken, guilt-ridden son. Ari Aster’s script and direction both get under your skin, especially in the first two-thirds; as certain mysteries become clearer, Hereditary becomes a tad less powerful (though it does retain its power to shock), but it still keeps a hold on your attention until the bitter end.